Met Gala 2024: 'Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion' unveiled as theme of Costume Institute's next exhibition - what does it mean?

'Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion' has officially been revealed as the next exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's prestigious Costume Institute - and of course, will be the theme of the 2024 Met Gala.

Announced on Wednesday (local time), Vogue reported that around 250 items spanning 400 years of sartorial history will be drawn from the Costume Institute's permanent collection, whittled down from some 33,000. These treasured garments will be displayed in an entirely new way, breathing fresh life into old - and many unseen - classics. 

According to local media, pieces will range from a 17th century English Elizabethan-era bodice to 21st century acquisitions by contemporary designers including Phillip Lim, Stella McCartney and Connor Ives, with some of the oldest items to be paired with modern garments. Archival designs by Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy and other iconic creators will also be featured. 

The exhibition itself will be structured around 50 or so historically significant pieces from the collection that are too fragile to ever be worn again - these will be said 'Sleeping Beauties'. Instead, these standouts - including the aforementioned Elizabethan bodice and a ballgown by American couturier Charles Frederick Worth from 1887 - will be "transformed" through cutting-edge, creative display.  

"The Met's innovative spring 2024 Costume Institute exhibition will push the boundaries of our imagination and invite us to experience the multisensory facets of a garment," Max Hollein, the Met's Marina Kellen French Director and CEO, said in a statement.  

"'Sleeping Beauties' will heighten our engagement with these masterpieces of fashion by evoking how they feel, move, sound, smell, and interact when being worn, ultimately offering a deeper appreciation of the integrity, beauty, and artistic brilliance of the works on display."  

Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, said to Vogue: "Fashion is one of the most emotional artistic forms because of its connection to the body. It is imbued with memory and emotions, and we relate to it very much via our senses. One thing I hope this show will activate is that sensorial appreciation of fashion." 

The "Tulipes Hollandaises" evening cloak, designed by Charles Frederick Worth by 1889.
The "Tulipes Hollandaises" evening cloak, designed by Charles Frederick Worth by 1889. Photo credit: Nick Knight / Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art via CNN

As per the outlet, the illusion technique known as Pepper's ghost will be used to give new life to the historic pieces, while video animation, light projection, sound-scaping, AI, CGI and other "forms of sensory stimulation" will be utilised.  

Bolton said the items will be organised into three main 'zones' - Land, Sea, and Sky - as an "ode to nature and the emotional poetics of fashion". 

TikTok has been announced as the exhibition's lead sponsor, with support from Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe and Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue.  

As for the Met Gala, the annual star-studded event - and the Costume Institute's primary source of funding - will be held as always on the first Monday of May, which falls on May 6.  

An official dress code for the gala's attendees has yet to be announced - although Bolton told media he imagined guests will be guided by the emphasis on nature - and neither have its celebrity co-hosts.  

The red carpet ahead of the annual gala is arguably one of the most significant events on the pop culture calendar, drawing the world's most celebrated designers and the most influential celebrities of the time.  

The 2023 Met Gala was in honour of late designer Karl Lagerfeld: you can check out our coverage here.  

'Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion' will run from May 10-September 2, 2024.